Five ways to stay motivated at the gym
Keeping a new year’s resolution to get fit won’t be as easy as it seemed when we were passively indulging in Christmas cookies and beef dinners.

As an enthusiastic yet somewhat defeatist gym-goer, I’m always a bit reluctant to resume exercising after winter breaks end. I anticipate that my usual spot, the Recreation, Athletics, and Wellness Centre (RAWC) at the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM), like most gyms at the start of a new year, will shrink and louden with an influx of fitness resolution hopefuls. 

But rather than treating the hustle and bustle as an inconvenience to my socially anxious self, I’m coming to realize that, as I write this article, the renewed sense of pluck and possibility that launches people into a health-oriented mentality this month is a good thing to maintain. Here are five ways, when considered in tandem, that can help you turn your fitness promise into an intentional lifestyle. 

1. Find a gym buddy

Accountability is a fundamental tool for transformational change. There are some goals we just can’t achieve entirely on our own strength or willpower. They sometimes require the support of someone we choose to answer to when our good plans and wishes fail. 

Having someone there to share in your sweaty struggles and cheer you on until you complete that seemingly impossible last rep can keep you from self-isolating in thoughts about giving up. If you’re self-conscious at the gym or intimidated by its big, clanky machines, find comfort in company. 

Coming alongside another person so that you work towards physically and mentally healthier lives together also means that you’re invested in improving someone else’s well-being. Such a commitment is arguably an act of personal character development, in the way that you must figure out when to be compassionate or tough towards your fitness partner, when to encourage or challenge them, and when to celebrate or strategize for each other’s success. 

2. Set realistic goals 

Early 18th century, English poet Alexander Pope wrote: “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” Having specific performance goals to reach is akin to locating finish lines in your exercise journey—you know where you’re going and what rewards await you there. But if your expectations regarding the benefits of exercise and visible progress are too high, you’ll probably get discouraged when you don’t notice them right away. 

Wanting to improve your cardio condition, lose weight, or build strength are attainable, admirable aims. But if you strive to match the aerobic threshold of a nineteen-year-old Premier League soccer player and drop 30 pounds over the span of one month, you’ll deny yourself the enjoyment of working out (yes, you can enjoy exercise thanks to endorphins!) with these restrictive and unrealistic goals. In my experience, prospective results are best achieved when they’re rooted in reality and tempered by well-measured timelines. 

3. Make exercise part of your daily routine 

When you’re clear enough about your fitness goals, exercise can become a non-negotiable matter for you—like school. You know when you look at your UTM timetable and all the courses you’re enrolled in appear as colour-coded blocks? Like those blocks, fix some hours of exercise into that agenda. For an idea of what’s available to you at the RAWC, and what accommodates your class schedule, check out the department’s group fitness offerings. They’re free for students to attend and usually take place at consistent times throughout the week. 

Of course, life happens and randomly warps our plans, but for the days when you feel like skipping the gym, remember that emotionally reasoning your way out of class attendance usually ends with some form of regret, whether it’s over wasting tuition fees or having to make up for missed work. In a similar way, relapsing into laziness at the expense of your resolution puts a dent in your growth momentum. 

4. Buy workout clothes

In an episode of the Canadian TV show Schitt’s Creek, a female character named Jocelyn (Jennifer Robertson) attends a step class where participants are asked to don the fitness company’s uniform: a thin, dusty beige tunic and pant set like that of a 60s cult member. If Jocelyn knew about this policy, she says she wouldn’t have spent so much money on “Lululimes.” 

While this scene, like the show itself, chases after laughs, it also seems to suggest a less obvious psychological hack, if you will, that may increase the motivation to exercise. To prepare herself for this new experience of joining an exercise class, Jocelyn places some importance on apparel.

This tip may not apply to everyone, but for those of us who feel good when we look good, new quality leggings, pricey-but-worth-it training shoes, or a couple of fun-coloured quick-drying t-shirts make gym-going far more comfortable and exciting than it usually is.   

5. Get a personal trainer

If you like the idea of an accountability partner—that is, having personalized, reliable support that’s readily accessible to you in the gym—working out under the care and supervision of a personal trainer at the RAWC is an invaluable campus resource to reap. Learn more about this service on the RAWC’s website

Best wishes for health and wellness this new year!

Sports & Health Editor (Volume 49)| — Alisa is a third-year student completing a major in Professional Writing and Communication with a double minor in Political Science and Cinema Studies. She served as Editor-in-Chief of Mindwaves Volume 15 and Compass Volume 9 and was a recipient of the Harold Sonny Ladoo Book Prize for Creative Writing at UTM. Her personal essay, “In Pieces,” appears in the summer 2020 issue of The Puritan. In 2022, she published her first poetry chapbook, Post-Funeral Dance, with Anstruther Press and wrote for The Newcomer as a journalist. When Alisa isn’t writing, she’s probably reading historical nonfiction, ugly-crying over a sad K-drama, or dreaming of places far, far away.


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